Topic outline

  • Choosing general or vocational upper secondary education after comprehensive school

    Students who have successfully completed comprehensive school are eligible for general and vocational upper secondary education and training. Student selection to upper secondary schools is mainly based on the grades students receive on their basic education certificate. The selection criteria used by vocational institutions can include work experience and other comparable factors, along with entrance and aptitude tests.  

    Both young people and adults can apply for upper secondary education. Students in secondary education intended for young people are usually 16 to 19 years of age. Nearly half of young people in Finland continue their studies in general upper secondary school after basic education, while others focus on, for example, vocational training.  

    General upper secondary schools provide an all-round education which does not lead to a profession. The same subjects are studied in upper secondary schools as in comprehensive school, but the studies are more demanding and independent. Upper secondary school takes two to four years, depending on the student. At the end of upper secondary school studies, students take the matriculation examination. Those who pass the examination are eligible to apply for further studies at universities, universities of applied sciences and upper secondary school–based vocational education. 

    The general upper secondary education programme is organized as separate syllabi for young people and adults. Young people study in full-time or remote upper secondary schools while adults often attend part-time upper secondary schools. In these it is possible to either take separate courses or complete the entire upper secondary school syllabus and take the matriculation examination.  

    The Finnish National Agency for Education decides on the objectives and learning outcomes of the different subjects and study modules for general upper secondary education. Based on the national core curriculum, each education provider then prepares the local curriculum. Due to the modular structure of upper secondary education, students may combine studies from both upper general education and vocational education and training. 

    Vocational education is more practice oriented than upper secondary school education. Vocational upper secondary qualifications provide the basic skills required in a field. At the beginning of vocational education and training, the student and the institution draw up a personal competence development plan for the student, outlining the content, schedule and methods of study.  On-the-job learning is an essential part of the qualification. 

    Completing a vocational qualification takes about three years. After this, students can continue their studies to complete a further vocational qualification or a specialized vocational degree. Further and specialist vocational qualifications enable people to develop their skills at different stages of their career. If students so choose, they can progress from vocational education to higher education. Further vocational qualification or a specialized vocational degree can also be completed as competence-based qualifications if the student has already acquired the skills required for the qualification.  

    ©Jarmo Nevala

    After comprehensive school, most students continue to either vocational education or general upper secondary school. There are, however, also other options.